2023 College-Bound Student and Parent Surveys: Download The Reports

Month: September 2023

Spark451 Strategy TeamBy Spark451 Strategy Team|September 21, 2023

As a higher education professional, you are intimately familiar with the state of college and university admissions over the last few years. However, we have a feeling you’ll probably still be surprised by some of the findings from Spark451’s 12th annual College-Bound Student Survey Report and our latest Parent Survey of College-Bound Students.

This summer, Spark451’s Education Research Division gathered feedback from more than 5,800 students and more than 1,100 parents across the U.S. Download the reports to gain access to all of the valuable information for college admissions professionals, including:

  • The Class of 2027’s social media habits
  • How regional political and social attitudes influence admissions decisions
  • Which communication tactics resonate most with students and their parents
  • How satisfied students felt with the admissions process
    And much more!

Download the reports now. Then, reach out. We’ll be happy to help you determine if your upcoming admissions marketing and student search plans are fully in line with the latest data from students and their parents.

Finding Students Where They Are: Fueling Enrollment and Building Brand Awareness Among Gen Z

Month: September 2023

By Ann Levy, Director of Digital Marketing, and Megan Brammer, Senior Client Strategist

In today’s ever-evolving higher education landscape, capturing the attention of Gen Z is a challenge that higher ed marketers face. With their unique digital habits and preferences, effectively marketing to this generation requires a strategic approach that leverages the power of social and digital media platforms.

During SparkThink@JAM 2023, we teamed up for a presentation called, “Finding Students Where They Are: Fueling Enrollment and Building Brand Awareness Among Gen Z.” We explored the importance of marketing to Gen Z on social media, discussed strategies for building brand awareness, and delved into how digital media can fuel enrollment. We even shared an example of an institutional partner that has implemented all of these tactics and has seen an excellent return for their investment and efforts. Read on for some of the key points we discussed with the group.

The Setup

A mid-tier public university in the southeast that we’ve worked with for several years approached Spark451 in 2019 to help boost their digital footprint. They had lofty goals and needed help finding a vision to get to the finish line. We were tasked with helping them increase the university’s brand awareness in regional and national markets with an enrollment focus. Just as campaigns were picking up speed, a pandemic was added to the mix! We set out to hit and exceed their digital marketing expectations and goals — and learned a lot along the way.

Understanding the Gen Z Landscape

JAM slide 7

The average Gen Z social media user spends an average of nine hours a day in front of digital devices (Source: Forbes), many of which are on social media apps. To connect with Gen Z, we must first understand their digital presence and patterns. They practically live on social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat. These platforms are more than just entertainment; they’re influential spaces where trends are born, stories are shared, and brands find their voices.

“The typical Gen Z-er’s media diet starts with casually scrolling TikTok and Reels in the morning, switching to YouTube around lunchtime, and turning to Netflix or Hulu in the evening…”

(Source: LA Times)

Setting Target Parameters

With our university partner, we carefully studied their historical enrollment; their primary, secondary, and tertiary markets; and made strategic decisions for media buys that aligned with geographic and platform usage for our audience. We didn’t want to waste any budget on placements or platforms that didn’t align. Achieving this required a great understanding of the market and our Gen Z audience’s habits in order to be a success.

Authenticity and User-Generated Content Is Key

Gen Z values authenticity above all else. They can spot a disingenuous marketing ploy from miles away. To make an impact, higher ed marketers must embrace genuine storytelling and highlight the unique attributes of their institutions. For example, showcasing real student experiences through vlogs or testimonials can create an emotional connection that resonates with Gen Z’s desire for authenticity. Ask your student ambassadors or tour guides to snap a few pictures or videos during the next student event on campus — these assets will resonate with your social media audience more than any stock image ever could.

Gen Z craves involvement and actively participates in shaping online narratives. Encourage students, alumni, and even faculty to share their experiences using hashtags or hosting contests. By incorporating user-generated content into your digital marketing strategy, you create a sense of community and encourage engagement, while simultaneously showcasing the vibrant culture of your institution.

While TikTok videos are fun and engaging, they must also be organic, authentic, and relevant. This can be hard to generate without the proper help from your students. Our university partner has been able to quickly embrace TikTok trends as they come up. Their student ambassadors take videos on their phones while attending activities on campus, or even while they are just working in the admissions office! These materials have been a hit with our target audience, and they show prospective students that this school is not only a fun place, but that it embraces trends and doesn’t shy away from innovation. This subtext is extremely important to this audience base!


The university partner we referenced above is just one of our partner institutions to take on the digital space so keenly to support their enrollment marketing goals — and the proof is in the numbers. In the 2022–2023 enrollment cycle, our joint efforts in paid media have resulted in 21M+ impressions across 10 media platforms, with 3,198 brand new student and parent leads across these platforms. For the Fall 2023 enrollment year, we were able to bring in 1,404 unique prospect leads from a first source of paid media through our partnership, with nearly 25% of those leads applying for Fall 2023 entry, and 120 students enrolled — all purely from our paid digital efforts!

Marketing to Gen Z on social media is a powerful tool for building brand awareness and fueling enrollment in higher education institutions. By authentically engaging with this generation through storytelling, user-generated content, and strategic planning, you can create a dynamic and relatable online presence.

Let Us Help

If you’re looking for additional ways to optimize your digital outreach to Gen Z, please reach out to us to discuss your goals. Our experienced team of enrollment marketing strategists and digital marketing strategists will be happy to help you unleash your creativity to capture the hearts and minds of Gen Z!

This is just a small taste of all that was discussed during this year’s conference. To dive in further, save the date and join us at SparkThink@JAM 2024!

SparkThink @JAM 2024

Wednesday, May 29–Friday, May 31, 2024
Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center Dallas, TX

This is just a small taste of all that was discussed during this year’s conference. To dive in further, save the date and join us at SparkThink@JAM 2024!

SparkThink @JAM 2024

Wednesday, May 29–Friday, May 31, 2024
Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center Dallas, TX